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The gray-haired older woman suffers from arthrit is. She looks at her hand and feels terrible pain.

Connection between alcohol, smoking and rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in affected parts of the body. RA mainly attacks the joints, usually several joints at once. The joint becomes inflamed, causing damage to the joint tissue. This tissue damage can cause long-lasting or chronic pain, restlessness (balance problems), and deformity (misalignment).

Alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis

Some studies suggest that alcohol may not be as harmful to people with rheumatoid arthritis as first thought. The results have been reasonably positive, but some results have been contradictory. Much more research is needed.

A small 2010 study published in the American journal Rheumatology by Canadian Association of Rheumatology showed that alcohol can relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in some people. The study examined the relationship between the frequency of alcohol consumption and the risk and severity of the disease. The results seemed to show that alcohol consumption actually reduces the risk and severity of RA. Compared to people who have RA and drank little to no alcohol, there was a significant difference in severity. However, this study was very small, only 873 people participated in it.

Other results were provided by a 2014 study conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, USA, which focused on alcohol consumption in women and its association with rheumatoid arthritis. The study found that drinking a moderate amount of beer could positively influence the effects of RA development. It is important to note that only women who drank moderately saw benefits and that excessive alcohol consumption is unhealthy.

A 2018 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology examined the effect of alcohol on radiographic progression of RA in the hands, wrists, and feet. The study found that moderate alcohol consumption led to an increase in radiographic progression in women and a decrease in radiographic progression in men.

Alcohol - moderation is the key

If you decide to drink alcohol, moderation is important. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than twelve grams of pure alcohol a day for women and no more than 24 grams a day for men. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol dependence and may increase the risk of cancer, among other health problems.

Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis

Smoking is a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, especially in heavy smokers who have smoked for 20 years or more. Smokers are also at increased risk for a more severe course of pain and inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.

Smoking can increase oxidative stress in the body. There are two phases of cigarette smoke: particulate (tar) phase and gaseous (vapor) phase, both of which contain very high concentrations of free radicals. Cigarette smoke is also known to activate endogenous sources of free radicals. Oxidative stress has been reported to increase in rheumatic inflammation due to impaired free radical antioxidant systems.

Cigarette smoking affects both cellular and humoral aspects of the immune system, causing a systemic proinflammatory state. The effects of chronic cigarette smoking on the innate and adaptive immune response appear to trigger various morphological, physiological, biochemical, and enzymatic changes that result in impaired antibacterial defenses, cellular regulatory activity, and inflammatory responses.

Persistent inflammation due to oxidative stress, proinflammatory state, autoantibody production, and epigenetic effects may be involved in the autoimmunity of RA. Recent studies also provide evidence that clinical response to anti-TNF drugs used to treat RA may be affected by smoking.

Stop smoking

If you want to quit smoking, you can make small changes to your lifestyle that can help you resist temptation. Make a promise, set a date and stick to it.

Do you like to smoke a cigarette after a meal? A US study found that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes "tastier". Others, including fruits and vegetables, cheese, make cigarettes taste terrible. So swap your usual steak or burger for a veggie pizza.

The same US study as above also examined beverages. Carbonated drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee make cigarettes taste better. So when you're out and about, drink more water and juice. Some people find that simply changing their drink affects their need for a cigarette.

Several scientific studies have proven that exercise, even a 5-minute walk, can reduce cravings and relieve cigarette cravings.

Nicotine replacement therapy can double your chances of success. In addition to nicotine patches, there are lozenges, gum and nasal spray. And if you like holding a cigarette in your hand, there are portable products like the inhaler or e-cigarettes. Online stores, such as Germanflavours, offer e-liquids for electric cigarettes with varying nicotine content. Gradually reducing the amount of nicotine will alleviate the negative nicotine withdrawal symptoms and facilitate smoking cessation.

Translation. Image: bigstock.